Monday, September 10, 2007

Small Batches, Big Savings

A frequent question I find when reading all of the wonderful blogs out there is “How do you keep the grocery bill cost down?” A few weeks back, the Oregonian published an article written by Leslie Cole, called “Small Batches, Big Rewards.” In it Ms. Cole interviewed Laura Ohm about her system of incorporating small batch preserving as part of her meal making routine. The idea is to take advantage of all of the wonderful fruits and vegetables during their peak season and when they are least expensive and save them for later. Now, I’m not a big “canner” or “preserver,” but I am big on saving money and this article had some great tips on how to do that. First, you will need to stock up on some supplies such as canning jars and freezer bags. Then follow Ohm’s simple “preserve-as-you-go” guidelines. Remember to keep it simple; keep it small; incorporate it into your everyday or once a week meal preparation time; and eliminate any unnecessary steps.

* “Think about how you cook.” There is no reason to make anything you aren’t gong to eat.
* “Stock up.” You will need 1-quart freezer bags, permanent-ink markers, stock-pot, jars, canning supplies, sugar, kosher salt, etc. It is better to purchase these items when they are on sale than when you are “inspired.”
* “Mind you time.” Be aware of how much time you have before endeavoring to start a project you can’t finish. Also, be aware of the freshness of your vegetables. Do you need to freeze them tonight, or will they last a day or two?
* “Eliminate unnecessary steps.” If you don’t need to peel it, don’t. Skip the ice-water bath to cool vegetables if running them under cool water will work just as well.
* “Piggyback tasks.” While you washing vegetables for the evening meal, wash enough to freeze for later. If you’re already boiling water, use some of the water to blanch the vegetables for freezing.
* “Remember the payoff.” Opening your freezer to find vegetables at their peak versus buying them when they are hothouse ripened and mealy will remind you that it was all worth it!

“Laura’s Preserving Favorites include:
Berries of all types – Pre-freeze on a cookie sheet then transfer into a freezer bag
Plums – halved and pitted
Rhubarb – trimmed and diced
Whole cherry tomatoes and Whole Roma tomatoes – cored and squeezed to remove seeds
Corn – sliced off the cob
Raw, sliced Zucchini
Shelling peas and Green Beans – blanched
Sugar snap peas – blanched (add 1 teaspoon baking soda to blanching water to preserve color)
Bok choy, Spinach, and braising greens – blanched and drained

Green Beans
Whole Chiles
Spring onions and shallots

From the canner
Berry jams
Diced tomatoes
Tomato sauce”

Written by Leslie Cole and Published Tuesday, July 3rd in the Food Day Section of the Oregonian.

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